Pete’s Dragon

A truly affecting and oh-so-lovely modern fairytale.

I saw this yesterday with my friend Galia. I think we both went in thinking, eh this will just be a kids movie. We both left the cinema post-film as hot messes having cried, a lot. Having not seen the original movie from 1977 and choosing not to look up the film beyond the trailer I expected to be entertained. I hadn’t expected to be so completely moved. Few films are this much of a treat to watch and even fewer will leave you feeling so drained yet consumed by a happy glow. A cinematic gem with little equal!

Five year-old Pete (Oakes Fegley) was orphaned by a car accident. Lost and alone in the woods it looks certain that he will not survive for long. However help, and friendship, comes in the most unlikely and unbelievable of places – a dragon who lives in the woods. Pete names his new friend Elliot and six years of undisturbed friendship follow. However after spying on a of lumberjacks a series of events results in Pete being discovered and taken away by park ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). She, and the rest of the town, cannot believe that Pete survived six years on his own in the woods. Yet Pete is insistent he wasn’t alone, though he struggles to explain who/what Elliot actually is. Maybe Grace’s father (Robert Redford), who has claimed for decades that he once meet a dragon in the very same woods, will be able to help?

It’s actually a real struggle to explain just how wonderful, marvellous, fantastic this movie is without repeatedly using the aforementioned adjectives. It’s just so ruddy lovely! Part of this surprise and pleasure comes from how unexpectedly brilliant the film is. Considering how certain disappointments (again I’m going to name and shame Suicide Squad here) have been advertised non-stop for months Pete’s Dragon quietly got on. Some beautiful posters here and a very well-done trailer there a quiet buzz was created as opposed to some enormous fiery roar. Whilst this certainly works in the film’s favour it’s the quality of what on over here that truly casts a wondrous spell over the audience.

Few films, be that kids movies or otherwise, are this captivating and beautiful. For the visuals alone are gorgeous – the settings are spectacular and the special effects of a certain friendly dragon are fantastic. The character’s are brilliant as are the actor’s performances. Bryce Dallas Howard (who I found rather problematic in last year’s Jurassic World) is warm and delightful as Grace. Redford is a charming old codger, a likeable grandfather-figure with that certain twinkle in his eyes.  Wes Bentley is more than fine as Grace’s fiancee, Karl Urban is yet again a treat to watch (his second great role of this year after Star Trek Beyond) as his gung-ho  brother and Oona Laurence gives a really lovely performance as Jack’s daughter and Pete’s new-found friend.

Yet the two stars of this movie have to the the eponymous duo. Fegley as Pete is so captivating and heartfelt to watch. His backstory, which opens the film, is as dark and emotional as that of Bambi (1942). His performance is so natural and carefree that he is a real to joy to watch. The fact his main screen companion is a product of computer animation provides him with no trouble (just as Neel Sethi in this year’s The Jungle Book) and he convinces us with ease. My maternal instinct really made regular appearances as we watch his various emotional turmoils. I also fell in love with Elliot the dragon – so much so I’ve got a niggling need to buy this plushie from the Disney Store. He’s a magnificent cinematic creation, fully developed with a great balance between goof, charm and undivided loyalty. It says so much about the developments in cinema that a computer generated character such as Elliot fits in seamlessly. Elliot looks, sounds and moves like a real creature – something I desperately wish for! 

‘Pete’s Dragon’ is a true pleasure to watch for both children and adults. It’s completely charming, sincerely soulful and magnificently mystical. Unlikely to be beaten for the title of family movie of 2016.


Pete’s Dragon is in UK cinemas now. 



Gods of Egypt

If you like so-bad-that-it’s-good then this is for you.

Writing a review of this film seems semi-futile as Mark Kermode did such a a good job with his (click here for his vlog post) but I’m going to  give it a go. Mainly because although I agreed fully with everything Mark says in his review we have one difference, I bloody loved how ridiculous and brainless the film is. It’s the level of awful bomb movie that you don’t see very often, that ends up being hilarious by by taking its failed spectacle far too seriously. I genuinely think this has the potential to be a cult classic – turned into drinking games and quote-alongs, so unbelievable and propestrous that it has to be seen.

In an alternate version of Ancient Egypt the world is flat and ruled by Gods who live amongst humans. They also happen to be twice the size physically of the mere mortals and bleed gold not blood. On the day of the coronation, with Osris (Bryan Brown) abdicating and giving the throne to his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Osris is killed by his jealous brother Set (Gerard Butler). Set then strips Horus of his eyes, which contain all of his power, but stops himself from killing Horus as his nephew’s lover Hathor (Elodie Yung) offers to be his slave if Horus is spared. Instead Horus is exiled and Set becomes a tyrannical leader of Egypt. Bek (Brenton Thwaites) is a mortal thief who has little belief or faith in the Gods but when his girlfriend is killed, Zaya (Courtney Eaton), Bek makes a deal with Horus. If Bek helps Horus regain his eyesight and therefore power Horus will help bring Zaya back from the dead.

I don’t know where to begin with this one. There are so many things wrong with this film that somehow end up being so right. Literally from the opening credits, the title page, I snort-laughed. Somehow director Alex Proyas has managed to make even the title page pretentious. It then continues from there. We have a voice-over narrator (an often ill-used device resulting in cheesey-ness) who happens to be an older Bek (again the element of foresight in narration ends up being rather cloying) who explains things in a way that somehow manages to be condescending AND stupid. The script as a whole is so stupid that I feel that to be accurate I must refer to it using quotation marks – the ‘script’ and ‘story’ is so kitsch and  pantomimic, full of pointless non-sequiturs that either go nowhere. This is pure B-movie territory with a big blockbuster budget ($140 million budget in case you were wondering).

Where that money went? Well I’m not quite sure. It’s certainly not on the special effects which are dire. Truly and utterly awful. Every scene is a green screen disaster. The decision to make the gods twice the height and size of the humans may have seemed novel during pre-production but in execution ends up being awfully brilliant. My personal favourite (another snort-laugh was emitted at this point) had to be when Horus is in the bath and the human women are helping him. It’s hard to describe, or to truly reflect the brilliance of the moment, but everything about the scene is uncanny-ily dreadful.

It could have been the cast. We’ve got GOT Danish heartthrob Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Gerald Butler and even Geoffrey Rush – who must have been on set for about a day to film his scenes then scarper off. I feel like I should give Coster-Waldau some credit for his performance, for the most part he tries admirably to deliver the dire dialogue and when he doesn’t he still seems to embrace the dross. Managing to say such lines as ‘I can understand killing for a throne, but this is madness!’, ‘I’m sorry that the corpses of my parents have inconvinced you.’ and ‘It’s lettuce!’ with a straight face and a desperate will to make them effective makes for a truly hilarious experience. His buddy partnership with Thwaites as Bek is memorable only for Coster-Waldau as Bek both as a character and Thwaites portraying him is dreadful. Bek is a total Mary/Gary Sue , utterly perfect at everything he tries to do. Except for speaking dialogue, he’s pretty awful for that. In fact the only things I wrote down in regards to his performance after seeing the film is ‘eyebrows’. There’s some serious eyebrow going on here.

Gerald Butler plays Gerald Butler. His performance stands out like a sore thumb as whilst everyone else speaks with this strange hyper-English accent he speaks in his Gerald Butler roar. It seems a dark day to be saying this but he does manage to out-act everyone he is on screen with. My favourite performance however was Chadwick Boseman as Thoth, providing us with a character who personifies the strange campness of the entire film. However, as a consequence, I fear I will end up taking his portrayal as Blank Panther a lot less seriously. The moment that really summed up just how bad this film was going to be was the appearance of  Rufus Sewell, a man who can actually act but has recently spent his career in this type of Hollywood underworld cinema. Considering he is the in the film and providing the kind performance full of knowingness and campery that we’ve come to expect from him, it’s truly amazing that the film’s director seemed surprised at the film’s reception  (click here for more). 

To conclude I will finish with my top five lines of the film as I genuinely feel the level of absurdity the script reaches may be beyond words.  It’s a shiny big disaster with weird oddball moments and brilliantly bonkers.The acting is lacklustre, the story mediocre but the film is impossible to resist. If only it were half an hour shorter (it’s 127 minutes long) then this would be a perfect awful movie.

5) Set: Behold the fate of those who stand in my way. I will bring them reckoning!

4) Horus: I don’t need any more worshippers. Tributors that rot and stink. Get out! Unless you’ve got wine…

3) Ra: When you stray from your past, you grow weak.

2) Horus: The dead don’t speak to the living

1) Ra: Normally when a bird lands on my beat I kill it, before it can shit.

Film quality: 1.5stars

Film enjoyment levels: 4.5


Tale Of Tales

A twisted take on twisted tales

I bloody loved this film. It has everything I love in one place- fairytale s (the dark kind), kings & queens, tricks & spells, deals & plots, oaths & secrets, love & betrayal and tales of the unexpected. It’s all told so well, with so much love and care, with everything looking absolutely gorgeous. Last week I criticized Alice Through The Looking Glass for many things (see my review here)  but the main one was for being a ‘film which feels like it was made by people who read a book called ‘Pretending To Be Weird For Dummies”. Those ‘people’ need to go see this because this is how you do it. If you’re looking for strange, dark and morbidly entertaining tales then look no more!

The Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) is desperate to have a child but everything she and her husband (John C. Reilly) try fails to work. When a mysterious stranger, a necromancer (Franco Pistoni), visits the castle he offers a risky solution. They need to find a sea monster, kill it and then have its heart cooked by a virgin which the Queen must eat. She will fall instantly pregnant. The necromancer warning that this will be at the cost of a life – a warning the Queen ignores. 

The King of Highhills (Toby Jones) befriends a flea that appears to be able to follow instructions. A friendship soon blossoms and the flea grows and grows. When the now extremely and unbelievably large flea dies the King uses  the flea’s skin as part of a game – whoever can guess the what animal the skin belonged to will get to marry his only daughter. Such a shame for Princess Violet (Bebe Cave) that it’s an ogre who guesses correctly. 

The sex-obsessed King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) hears the voice of an angel whilst prowling his kingdom. He pursues the voice and demands to seduce her, not knowing the voice belong to an elderly woman Dora (Hayley Carmichael) who lives with her equally elderly sister Imma (Shirley Henderson). Dora intends to lead the King along, knowing that she is putting her’s and her sister’s life in danger. A chance meeting with a witch provides her heart’s greatest desire – but is it too good to be true?

That’s only the beginning of each tale. There’s so much more for you to see – so much of which is unexpected, some of which is slightly scary, and all of which is a true pleasure to watch. It’s a feast for the eyes, the brain and the heart. The performances are all solid and utterly believable. There’s depth within each character, a reason and motivation rooted in their decisions. Hayek is stand-out, as is Toby Jones as a man who shifts from arrogance (‘ha ha they’ll never guess what animal it is and I’ll keep my daughter forever’) to devastation (‘Now my son-in-law is an ogre!’) in truly sympathetic manner. Even Cassel’s lustful pursuit manages to be bizarrely sympathetic for all parties involved.

The three tales are interwoven, tentatively linked within the story but fully linked in terms of message. The three tales are based on stories from a 17th Century anthology, they are La Cerva Fatata (The Enchanted Doe), La Pulce (The Flea), La Vecchia Scorticata (The Flayed Old Lady)- but they have been freely adapted with elements of other tales by Giambattista Basile, as well as a touch of artistic license. Although set in a medieval Italy it does feel that their are messages being targeted the audiences today – about consequences of decisions and the nature of family.

The costumes are jaw-dropping, the monsters Kafkaesque, the settings breath-taking, the soundtrack haunting yet never overwhelming and the performances totally memorable. Films like this don’t come around very often so see it whilst you can!